Biostar iDEQ 210P

Overview

Biostar is a tier two manufacturer that has been around for some time. As with many other manufacturers, Biostar started out making motherboards and over time, branched out into other areas such as graphics cards and now SFF systems. While the Shuttle XPC is generally regarded as the originator of the SFF PC concept, Biostar has followed closely behind with their iDEQ line. Today, we're taking a look at their 210P model, which is unique in this roundup for several reasons.

Amazingly - at least to us - the iDEQ is the only socket 754 SFF that we've received for review. Looking around on the Internet, there are a few other manufacturers - Chenming, Shuttle, and Soltek, for example - that make socket 754 units, but we have not received any of them. As a socket 754 part, then, the iDEQ 210P stands alone in our roundup. Biostar also manufactures a number of other units of varying case designs. All of them appear to include a sliding front door, which we'll say more on in a moment, but if you're interested in something for socket A, 478 or 775, Biostar is worth a look. We'll be checking out their latest addition, the 300G, in the upcoming socket 775 roundup.

Aesthetics


Click on images to enlarge.

The overall look of the iDEQ is something that individuals will have to assess for themselves. While it's not really ugly, we have to say that it is also not the best looking unit out there. The paint job looks good, but the biggest detractor has to be the front panel. With a large slide-down faceplate covering the optical drive and flash memory card reader, it ends up with something of a "top-heavy" look. The large, chrome power button is almost too big and definitely attracts the eye - and not necessarily in a good way. Even worse are the cycling colors of the power button when the unit is running. If the front of the unit is in plain view, you will find yourself frequently looking at it unless you slide the plate down. On the plus side, having the cover down blocks most of the light from being seen in the room, making it almost ideal for bedroom use.

Obviously, opinions on aesthetics will vary, but we're simply not too keen on the front panel. It looks better with the faceplate down, and really, we'd just as soon do without the whole sliding mechanism. We'll have more to say on the matter in the construction section. However, this is really just one opinion on the look of the case, and if you like a little "bling" in your system, you might appreciate it more. For us, the looks are really something of a shame, as they're one of the few things that we have issues with on the design!

One final thing to point out is that Biostar does offer a range of accessories for their cases, including a cover that includes a side window. That costs extra, of course, and several other companies have similar offerings. We do like the included carrying case that came with the system - tchotchkes are always entertaining. If you ever need to pack the unit to go off to a LAN party, the harness will help protect it from scratches and damage. Otherwise, it's not particularly useful.

Features


Biostar iDEQ 210P
Dimension (w)210 mm x (h)187 mm x (d)323 mm
CPU Support AMD Socket 754 Sempron/Athlon 64 up to 3700+ (2.4GHz)
Memory Support PC2100/PC2700/PC3200 up to 2GB; 2 DIMM slots
Motherboard K8NBP (proprietary)
NVIDIA nForce3 250Gb Chipset
Bus speed 400/333/266MHz HyperTransport 800/1000MHz
Graphics None - Add-in card required
Expansion Slots 1 x PCI; 1 x AGP 8x; 1 x mini-PCI
Power Supply 250W Enhance Power Supply
4 x 4-pin Molex; 2 x SATA; 1 x 4-pin FDD
4-pin ATX 12V; 20-pin ATX
Internal Connections 2 x SATA; 2 x IDE; 1 x FDD; 1 x LPT; 1 x Game
Parallel and Game Port cables included in package
Audio Realtek ALC655 AC97 SW audio, 6 channel codec
LAN 1 x Gigabit NVIDIA LAN
Memory Card Reader Compact Flash Type I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick,
Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card,
Smart Media Card
Drive Bay 1 x 3.5 External (Flash Reader
2 x 3.5 Internal (HDD)
1 x 5.25 External (CD/DVD)
Front I/O 2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394 (6pin)
S/PDIF-in, MIC, Head-phone
7-in-1 memory card reader Power and Reset buttons
Power Indicator (Color Cycling)
HDD LED Indicator
Rear I/O 2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394 (6pin)
PS/2 KB, PS/2 Mouse
2 x Serial port
RJ-45 LAN Port (10/100/1000Mbps)
S/PDIF output
Micropone, Line-in/out, Speaker out
Overclocking HyperTransport 1X-5X; CPU 100-250; AGP 66-100
No voltage controls
Extras None (mini-PCI slot)
Full Image Set Biostar iDEQ 210P Pictures (2.3MB)
Manufacturer Link Biostar iDEQ 210P

Not only is the 210P our sole representative of socket 754, but it chooses to take the high performance route by using what is generally considered the best socket 754 chipset, the NVIDIA 250Gb. This, of course, gives the unit gigabit Ethernet along with the NVIDIA hardware firewall, both desirable features. The 210P is also the only unit we're looking at today that includes a mini PCI slot, which can be combined with a wireless networking card/modem while keeping your PCI slot available. No mini-PCI cards are included with the system, so you'll have to purchase such a card on your own. This is actually not a bad tactic to take, however, as it gives you control over the brand and features that you want. Consider the ASUS, for example, which includes 802.11B WiFi. While it's better than nothing, most people are now looking for 802.11G WiFi as the bare minimum, and newer standards like 802.11N are in the works.

In the more typical areas, the Biostar is able to match most competitors. Firewire, USB2.0, S/PDIF optical input and output, sound, and networking are all present and accounted for. Like a lot of other SFF cases, a flash card reader is also present in place of a floppy drive. In this case, it's again a 7-in-1 reader with support for the most common formats. (If you're like me and have an XD card, unfortunately, you're out of luck with all the units that we've received so far.) One of the nice extras with the iDEQ is that it includes a "True 250W" power supply. While it's not likely that you're going to put in a ton of high end parts in such a small case, the iDEQ is one of the very few cases to actually include a mounting bracket for two internal 3.5" hard drives. The extra 50W of the power supply relative to some competitors will certainly help should you choose to use both drive positions. Our testing did not uncover any issues with running two drives.

Also worthy of note is that the iDEQ 210P is the only SFF in this roundup that could actually use a two-slot graphics card. The AGP slot is located on the inside of the slot rather than the outside in order to allow this. Installing a single-slot GPU with a large PCI card next to it might present a problem if you're not careful, but for truly high-end performance the ability to use a 6800 Ultra or other two-slot card is a nice feature to set the 210P apart from the crowd.

We've commented on the quality of the front panel audio on many of the other units, and we're happy to report that the iDEQ was the sole unit in this roundup that didn't have any static on either audio connection. You may still need to mute the AUX, MIC, and/or Line-in ports, but once that's taken care of, the audio was very clean. One of the problems with a lot of the SFF units is that the audio capabilities are compromised by the use of auto-sensing jacks. It is not uncommon to see 5.1 speaker setups with most computers now, but if you want 5.1 speakers as well as microphone support, you're often forced to use the S/PDIF connectors. That is true of all five SFFs in this roundup, so if you use a microphone or line-in, take note of this fact. You'll either need an add-in sound card or you'll need to use one of the S/PDIF connections.

One last item to comment on is the overclocking features. If you're interested in trying to overclock this unit, the BIOS does provide some basic functionality. However, with no voltage controls present, overclocking attempts will certainly be limited.

ASUS T2-P Deluxe (cont'd) Biostar iDEQ 210P (cont'd)
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32 Comments

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  • CrystalBay - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Hi, How about the dual Opteron Iwill, that keeps flashing on the right. Reply
  • skunklet - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    there is an ideq with an embedded c3 proc that i would love to see a review of. Reply
  • gerf - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    I'd been looking at that Biostar SFF, as its specs are better than the equivalent Shuttle version, and is much cheaper. And now you drop a great review for it! I think that both I and my brother are going to use it for our new systems. Thank you for the kickarse review! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    #6 - fixed, along with a few other things I noticed. If anyone sees anything else, feel free to drop me a line.

    #7/#8 - both of those are on the list of S939 systems we have coming for review. (We haven't received the PCIe one yet, but it should arrive sometime soon.) Unfortunately, most of the "high end" SFFs that we currently have are S775 for whatever reason. I think we have eight 775 units and only three 939 right now. I'd really like to see additional S754 units as well, since Sempron is moving in that direction.

    I think one of the reasons that we're seeing more Intel SFFs is due to the chipset support. 865G is really almost the same price as 865PE, so the integrated graphics are "free". They're not good for gaming, but for most other tasks they work well. The only AMD platform chipsets with IGP are currently the outdated VIA K8M800 and the SiS stuff, although there are some newer offerings.

    In case any of you aren't aware of this, we really can't afford to simply go out and purchase every item that we want to review. Since the reviews are basically "free" advertising (although if a unit has serious problems, it may not be good), the manufacturers have to send us the parts. In case any manufacturers are reading this, get in touch with us and we'll be happy to review any of your SFFs that you send our way! There are quite a few manufacturers that aren't currently represented.
    Reply
  • Phantronius - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Im hoping the SN25P turns out to be reliable unlike the SN95G.

    That and the way the PCI-E cards are facing the opposite direction makes me wonder about heat with both slots taken up. Hrmm....
    Reply
  • REMF - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    AT - don't even consider doing your high-end round up until you have the new nForce4 P-series Shuttle due to be released at the end of the month.

    i would also like to see the nForce3 G5-Series Shuttle compared against it, and other high-end SFF chassis'. :D
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    WAU, that is one massive review! Good work guys.

    Just one typo to point out on page 8:

    The iDEQ doesn't include any notable extras **included**, but it does have all of the high quality standard features that we like.

    There was one more "it" that shoud have been "if", but I forgot where it was. Sorry :-)

    I thought this article would include a MAC mini, but I guess that will be a separate article altogether.

    If I may, I would suggest you only focus on SFF systems which stand out in a positive way and stay clear of the ones that don't. Just seems like a lot of pointless work.
    Reply
  • MIDIman - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Been waiting for anand's SFF reviews. Looking forward to the A64-939 / Intel 775 review that I'm sure will be next.

    arswihart - Note that the SB61G2V3 is Shuttle's latest socket 478, Intel-based system. All of their newer products are socket 775 which will be in a later review. However, I think there are plenty on the AMD side that could've been covered instead that are socket 754...the SN85G4V3 ain't too shabby.
    Reply
  • quidpro - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Absolutely no way that 7 bright blue leds in the Aopen (which only get brighter) should be considered acceptable or "minor" for an entertainment system, in my opinion. My shuttle has only two lights and I've had to cover them up with electrical tape with a small pinhole in order to cut down on the extremely distracting glare coming from it while watching a movie...the orange HD led flashes (as it should) which is even more distracting... Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    what the hell were they thinking when they chose to review this obsolete Shuttle system? Reply

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